The chime jingled cheerily as Aris pulled open the heavy coffee shop door. He smelled Cara’s hair as she brushed by him. Their chunky winter coats competed for room in the narrow opening. He was about to make a fool of himself.
Sitting now, coffee in hand, he casually inquired. “So, you’ve mentioned Christopher a couple of times…”
A month back, the two had met at the home of an old grad school professor. Dubbed “Mr. Chips,” Dr. Miles could be counted on to throw a big bash every Christmas. It served as an informal reunion for decades of students who would otherwise have lost touch–or never have met at all.
A moment ago they had been talking about hiking boots and the best places to get kebabs. Cara bit her lip and grew quiet as she stared into her mug.
“I loved him.”
Aris knew he couldn’t compete. He sat up straighter. He would listen. He would listen and then fade into the background before she could see through him.
“I gave him the best I had. Maybe more than I could afford…. I acted like I was in control but I was kidding myself. He knew me too well. He knew my strengths, my weaknesses–every contour of my mind and body. And he used what he knew. He pushed me to my limits.”
This was unexpected. Uncomfortable.
“So…he abused you.”
“No, no. It wasn’t like that.
“I don’t understand then.”
“I thanked him for it. I wanted it.” She was looking right at him now.
She wasn’t the person Aris had thought she was. He had to look away.
“I hung on his every word. I wanted his love so badly.” Her voice and expression had become intense. “I just wanted to know I was special to him. I would have done just about anything he asked. Deep down, I knew he did love me. But I was just so needy.”
“I can’t believe he’s gone. I never saw it coming.”
“No. No. God, no!” Reverie interrupted, Cara came to. She broke into an amused smile.
“I thought you knew. Christopher was my coach.”